reconnect with nature: return to the outdoors

Connecting with nature is one of the underlying themes to this blog, (see the welcome panel on the left), but unfortunately that gets lost sometimes with the more day to day built environment stuff. I feel this is important – to experience the outdoors, whether by walking or cycling, camping in the backgarden, under a tarp or bivvy under the stars on a Scottish mountain top. We need that reminder of context and time to think.

I have mentioned Yvon Chouinard many times on this blog, as inspiration for environmental and business approaches. I must also admit to being a fan of the quality Chouinard Equipment, Black Diamond and Patagonia clothing for longer than I care to remember. But it is for environmentalism through the great outdoors and wildness (or should that be wilderness) that Chouinard is best associated. Oh and fly fishing …

I was delighted therefore to receive an email from Sara at Timex Expedition introducing Return to the Outdoors, a joint endeavor with the Conservation Alliance to inspire reconnection with nature and outdoor activity. Conservation Alliance have made a number of short online films, featuring outdoors icons, with hopes of motivating everyone to spend more time outdoors and raise awareness of the Conservation Alliance’s mission to protect outdoor spaces.

The latest in the series features environmentalist and author Yvon Chouinard, founder of Chouinard Equipment, Patagonia and One Percent for the Planet, fly fishing and discussing his love of nature at a secret lake in Argentina.


For inspiration and motivation to get back outdoors, take a look at the first film featuring mountaineer Conrad Anker discussing some of his earliest memories from Wyoming’s Teton Crest, or the second film featuring Steph Davis base-jumping in southern Utah’s canyonlands.

And I should plug here my business outdoor approach – benchmarkwalks – get out of the classroom, the hotel room or conference center and do the improvement stuff on a walk, on a camp or under that tarp.

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… on what makes a building green

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and

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Patagonia’s Mission Statement

I have mentioned Patagonia the outdoor clothing organisation a few times before on this blog, and recently searching for a model CSR policy or statement for a Masters course I am in part delivering, went back to their web site and Yvon Chouinard’s Let My People Go Surfing book.

More on Patagonia’s approach to building here and Patagonia’s environmental, CSR, approach here. And if you like environmentalism mixed with the great outdoors, mountains, clothing innovation and quality, along with a sprinkling of built environment comments – then check out the blog from staff, customers and friends at The Clean Line

profit from sustainability?

Is there profit to be made from sustainability is a question I am often asked at sustainability events, presentations and workshops. It has cropped up again today on publicity for the excellent Think 08 event next month.

In some ways the question misses the point on what sustainability is about – ie the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental sustainability – where profit is a key element of economic sustainablity.

Within our industry if we could really move from lowest price thinking (ie meaning competition is on profit levels), start moving to ringfenced profits, then we can start to focus on the other two ‘bottom lines” with more vigour. Allowing real profits through the supply chain would have the same affect. Energies applied to trying to make a project profitable can be applied to environmental and social sustainability issues, whilst the project players remain economically sustainable.

Really tackling the 30% or so waste within our sector, (waste in time, costs, materials and most importantly management energy), would more than pay for sustainability improvements whilst allowing a profitable, viable and economically sustainable industry.  For example, recent on-site studies have shown the true costs of skips to be £1300 or so.  One medium size contractor I was working with recently used on average 12 skips a week across 20 projects.  Do the math, as they say!

I often quote Yvon Chouinard – a mountaineering and eco hero of mine – founder of Patagonia clothing, who says that “every time I have done the right thing for the planet I have made a profit…even if the right thing cost twice as much”. Of course it needs the appropriately correct organisational ethos in place to achieve this. (see Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman for inspiration)

Take a look this review extract of Let my people go surfing:

Yvon Chouinard is one of the most important business leaders around today because he’s made a values-lead business highly profitable. Any aspring business leader (and, more importantly, those already running businesses) should be forced to read this. It’s the future.

So yes, there is profit in sustainability – currently, we cannot see it for the barriers and blinkers within the baggage we carry.  We cannot fix todays problems with the same thinking that created the problems.